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7.26.2008

Chelsea increases expectations in their Asian tour

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Luiz Felipe Scolari can be proud of his start at Chelsea: with two handsome wins and 11 goals. However, it would be premature to hail the Brazilian’s rebranded team as the great entertainers.

Indeed, such was the poverty of the opposition in Macau yesterday that Chelsea’s players have probably exerted themselves more in kickabouts in their back gardens. The visitors were able to stroll through this game, slicing open their hosts at will. Had they wanted to rack up double figures, they would surely have done so. Total control? Absolutely. But did they showed a total football? I can say they didn't.

In midweek, Luis Felipe Scolari growled at the mere mention of Jose Mourinho, stating that, like the famous Sinatra, he would do it his way and that beautiful football would come second to winning.

But the message from his footballers is that the former Brazil and Portugal manager is advocating a more gung-ho style in training, with two strikers rather than the one that has been the norm, and the club’s deep reservoir of attacking midfielders encouraged to show their creativity in football.

Yet there was more than a hint of Jose Mourinho in the personnel and formation that Scolari selected. It was a strong starting XI for late July and the tactics were a throw-back to Mourinho’s time, three central midfielders and two wingers complementing a single striker, in this case the French Nicolas Anelka.

As hosts, Chengdu Blades could not have been more hospitable. They are owned by Sheffield United but they showed no steel. The Blues scored three in the first half and four in the second, the pick of which was a delightful backheeled flick from substitute Joe Cole, one of two goals for the winger in his first pre-season game. Anelka, Salomon Kalou, Frank Lampard, Argentinian teenager Franco Di Santo and Shaun Wright-Phillips weighed in with goals.

Indeed, there was occasional slickness in Chelsea’s play, Essien typically shining in two different roles, firstly anchoring the midfield and later at right-back, while Deco and Frank Lampard dovetailed effectively in central midfield without getting in one other’s way. On the down side, Deco made a few rash challenges and would surely have been shown a yellow card in a Premier League fixture.

It's interesting to see that Scolari was a relaxed presence on the bench, choosing to stay rooted to his seat for the whole game. He clapped the opening two goals, was undemonstrative for the rest and laughed when the seventh crept in via Wright-Phillips’s shoulder.

Pre-season rides do not come much easier than this but Scolari says it was exactly the type of run-out he wanted and that his lineup for the opening Premier League match against Portsmouth on August 16 will be shaped by the considerably tougher fixtures in Moscow on Friday and Sunday.

“Look, for us, this is match training. If I was at Cobham it would make it the same,” he expressed. “We are here not only to play games but other things and for me it is better because I build my team for the Russian games and after that I have the team for the first game against Portsmouth.”

One footballer the manager knows very well is Deco, who contributed a full 90-minute shift despite his exertions for Portugal in the summer, evidence perhaps that Scolari wants this key cog in the wheel in prime shape for the start of the league season.


Goals: Chelsea: Anelka 15, Kalou 31, Lampard 38, J Cole 55, 82, Di Santo 66, Wright-Phillips 83

CHENGDU BLADES: Lan Yi, Liu Cheng, Demar, Li Mingyi (Ding Qi 55min), Zhu Xiaogang (Xu Chao 62min), Zhang Chaosong (Yang Zezhi h-t), Li Tie (Peng Xingli 78min), Xia Qiqi (Zhou Peng 55min), Zhou Yougen (Jiang Xiaoyu 82min), Shi Jun (Denilson h-t), Wang Song

CHELSEA: Cech (Hilario 60min), Ferreira (Ivanovic h-t), Alex (Carvalho h-t), Terry (J Cole 53min), A Cole (Bridge h-t), Deco, Essien, Lampard (Mikel h-t), Wright-Phillips, Anelka (Di Santo 60min), Kalou (Malouda h-t)

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